“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didnt really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” – Steve Jobs
Creativity can be an elusive mistress. Often it comes to us in a “Eureka” moment, but other times it can take hours of hard work and focus. Especially when trying to come up with ideas to start your own business. The financial freedom of being your own boss and controlling every aspect of your personal finances can be very appealing. The question is, where do you start?
When looking at successful entrepreneurs, it’s easy to be in awe of their creativity. How did two men in San Francisco come up with the idea to create a platform for people to rent out their personal living spaces and revolutionize the lodging market? How did Jeff Bezos come up with the idea for an online “Everything Store” at a time when the internet was seldom used for e-commerce?
These people are no different than you or I. They aren’t superhumans (well maybe Bezos). They were able to tap into their own creativity to create grand visions and solve other people’s problems.
Part of finding solutions to everyday problems is just a matter of retraining you brain to look for opportunities. Every day opportunity surrounds us, yet we are consistently blind to it. I have found a few very helpful ways to spark my own creativity that I hope you will also find useful.
· Set idea quotas
Set an idea quota for yourself every day. I try to set a quota for myself at 10 ideas per day. For this exercise, the quality of the ideas doesn’t necessarily matter. Examples from my personal ideas include—Selling slices of pizza out of a food truck, or selling coffee filters on amazon (I won’t share the good ones). They don’t all have to be million-dollar ideas, but some of them might be. The goal is to force yourself to come up with ideas and put something on paper (I actually just use the Notes on my iPhone). As I briefly discussed in Are You Wealthy?, we are all very deadline focused by nature. On days that I only have 2 or 3 ideas throughout the day, I find myself churning out the other 7 easily before I go to bed.
· Keep an idea log
Keep a more organized log, specifically for your good ideas, organized into categories such as Products, Marketing, Services, or Apps. This will be helpful to review later especially if you hit creative walls. It works very well to spark your imagination for new ideas when going back over older ideas.
· Break some of your daily habits
Sometimes we get ourselves into the mundane routine of life. We go day to day in essentially the same cycle. Wake up. Eat. Work. TV. Sleep. Repeat. One thing I have found incredibly useful is to break up parts of this cycle when you start feeling like you’re stuck in the movie Groundhog’s Day. Try taking a different route to work, listening to a different type of music (recently I’ve been on a Reggaetón kick), or even cutting out things you enjoy like TV and coffee for a week or so. The goal of this is to expose yourself to situations outside of your routine and comfort zone. It’s not always enjoyable (especially no coffee), but I’ve found it very helpful when I’m having creativity blocks.
I cannot stress this one enough as it is the single best creativity enhancement tool I’ve found. Non- fiction works best for me personally when it comes to creatively thinking of new ideas for real-world use. When you’re reading, you’re presenting new ideas to yourself. This, for me, changes the way I view everything around me. Once I read something, it stays with me throughout the day. I talk about it to my friends and family. I reflect on the information and it carries over into my daily experiences. Biographies are my favorite genre for this purpose. Don’t forget to take notes and highlight things that stand out to you. I also like to summarize the book chapter by chapter for myself on paper or on my laptop. This lets me get out a lot of my ideas as I go so they don’t get lost later. For some suggestions on great books that have helped me, I’m compiling a Reading List that should be up in the next few days.
At the end of the day journal about what happened throughout your day. What stood out to you? What made your day good? What made your day bad? Did anything out of the ordinary happen? I go as far to write what I ate, what my workout was, what so-and-so said that pissed me off, or how bad of a parking job the guy driving the Silverado at Target did. The goal of this one to is document anything and everything you can. This is extremely useful for coming up with new ideas. It will help you recognize the things that cause you stress and problems, also known as pain points, that can be solved in your day to day life.
Recognizing pain points is the single most important skill in identifying and capitalizing on potential business opportunities. It’s also one of the simplest skills to learn. There are dozens of times every day that something can cause you stress, frustration, or irritation. Instead of trying to generate ideas out of thin air, start recognizing what problems you or those around you encounter on a daily basis that can be solved to make life easier. Become mindful when people are expressing frustrations about their jobs, or about anything that bothered them. The best part is that most people are more than happy to tell you about these things (including myself).
For example, the other day I went to an establishment called Studio Movie Grill. It’s a movie theater/restaurant business that provides a dining setting while you enjoy a movie. The waitress took my order and brought my food out during the movie. I was there with a party of 7 people and the waitress got confused about the drink orders and food orders. I missed roughly 15-20 minutes of the movie I went to see because she was standing in front of me and trying to figure out where things went. I don’t blame the poor girl, the set up isn’t entirely organized. This is my pain point. How can this be solved? Well, you could use a digital ordering system connected to each seat so that orders can directly match to seat numbers. This would also take out the process of verbally ordering and missing part of the movie.
Is this a million-dollar idea? Probably not. But it’s a good example of how to recognize pain points in your everyday life.
When Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were living out of a loft apartment in San Francisco in 2007 they heard that people attending a conference in town were struggling to find places to stay for the night. This is an example of identifying other people’s pain points. They themselves aren’t directly affected by the lack of places to stay in San Francisco, but they saw that other people were going to be affected. This presented an opportunity. They threw air mattresses on the floor and offered a breakfast in the morning. THIS IS an example of a million-dollar idea, because today we know these two men as the founders of Airbnb. Always be listening to the pain points of others and you’ll be able to find simple solutions to their problems.
When Jeff Bezos had the idea for the “Everything Store” known as Amazon, it was inconceivable to most people. Why would anyone want to buy things online when they could just go to the store down the road? The internet was not as commonly used by people like it is today. The World Wide Web wasn’t as accessible, and the concept of e-commerce was a relatively new idea. Bezos saw opportunity, where others were blind. But the critics were still right. After all, how did you know what exactly you were buying if it wasn’t right in front of you? So, Bezos had to figure out how to build to his grand vision in smaller steps.
You see, he didn’t just go and launch this huge, revolutionary store from the get-go. He understood the obstacles in front of him involving this industry. So, he took steps to build his vision into a reality. To relieve this consumer skepticism, he asked himself a simple question. What’s a product you could sell online that is the same everywhere you buy it? Books. If you buy a book at Target, you can buy the same book at Barnes and Noble. The cover may be different, the size could differ, but the words on the pages are still the same. This was his solution to the problem that stood in his way of the “Everything Store”. The next products added to Amazon were movies, and CD’s. Both of which fit the same criteria as books.
Choosing simple, universal products to sell wasn’t his only solution. He needed a system to create more trust between the consumer and the online store. He decided to use a public customer rating and review system on products. This would give the consumer an opportunity to read reviews of others who have bought the same product.
Sometimes the ideas we come up can seem unrealistic. Instead of completely discarding them, ask yourself, what exactly stands in the way of this becoming a possibly? What can you realistically do now to bridge the gap between the possible and impossible?
I hope that you find this helpful whether you’re trying to start your own business or just trying to become a more creative person. These are a few simple, straight forward techniques that I personally have always found fascinating and I hope that they can provide value to you in some way.
Now go Wake Up The Wolf.